The Anonymous Widower

Protecting Your Company, Organisation Or Workgroup From Viruses, Ransomware And Other Malware

I am not a computer malware expert and since 1970, I have generally worked alone, with one or more computers , not connected by a network.

But after all the problems of the last few weeks with ransomware, I feel that one of my experiences of a few years ago, should be put into this blog.

A Daisy Demonstration

The Research Department of a major corporation were interested in using my software; Daisy to analyse data being collected in their local offices.

So I was summoned to their offices to the South West of London, so that they could have a proper demonstration.

I found something extremely sensible that I’d not seen before.

The Department had the usual corporate network, as you would expect, with logins, malware protection, but for my demonstration I used another computer.

The Lonely PC

We moved to a lonely PC sitting on a desk in the corner. It had the following characteristics.

  • Adequate power.
  • A recent version of Windows.
  • Direct connection to the Internet through a landline.
  • No connection to the main network.
  • A directly connected printer.
  • A selection of browsers.
  • Microsoft Office, but no e-mail program.

The only thing, that the computer lacked was a large screen.

Uses Of The Isolated Computer

The isolated computer was used for the following.

  • Demonstrations
  • Checking out ideas and web sites in suspect locations.
  • Testing software.

I think that after the recent ransomware attacks, emergency Internet access could probably be added to the list of uses.

Rules For Using The Computer

The Department had setup a series of rules for the use of the computer.

  • The computer could be booked by anybody in the Department.
  • Comprehensive data transfer rules using physical devices had been setup.
  • No software could be installed on computers on the main network, without full testing on the isolated computer.
  • The computer was regularly checked for any viruses or malware.
  • If any nasties were found on this computer, it was immediately restored to a pristine state.

Incidentally, whether it was for my benefit or not, it was one of the cleanest corporate computers, I’ve used for a demonstration.

Benefits

I was told that since the computer had been installed, malware problems on the network had decreased.

But how much was this down to a constantly improving and rigorously updated malware-protection system for the Department’s main network?

An Ideal System

A lot would depend on the type of company and their needs.

The system I used needed a big screen, as often a demonstration needs to be seen by several people.

I also think, that with a large screen, it could be a valuable tool in Corporate Communications.

Some might think, that this type of computer, which bypasses the corporate network, could be used by those with access for nefarious purposes.

Years ago, my software; Artemis was used to do the Project Management on Chevaline. The Ministry of Defence was worried that the Russians might use some unknown technology to read the electromagnetic radiation from the cathode-ray tube of the VDU. So I suggested they put the desk-sized computer in a shielded internal room. But what about the door, they said! I suggested that they get Chubb to put one of their best locks on the door.

A few weeks later, when a software problem struck, I went home with a complete copy of the project on a disc.

I had encoded the data using a personally-designed method that I still believe is unbreakable. But that is another story! Especially, as I’ve never signed the Official Secrets Act!

As this tale illustrates, there are ways to enforce security and holes will always appear.

 

 

 

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Computing | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Curious Problem With My Credit Cards

A few months ago, I tried to order some goods from IKEA for my kitchen. They weren’t delivered and my credit card wasn’t debited, so the only harm done was I waited in for a whole day for a non-delivery.

Over the next couple of months, I tried several times to repeat the order, but in no cases was it ever completed. Immediately, When I entered the details of either of my credit cards, the order disappeared.

To solve the problem, I took a bus to IKEA in Tottenham and placed the order personally, paying with my American Express card at the check-out. I also got the direct e-mail address of the Kitchen Department and sent them a couple of e-mails to assure them, that if they didn’t deliver, they’d be deep in the doodah.

The goods were eventually delivered on the day, but the driver’s sat-nav got him lost in the mews at the back of my house.

I put it down to some form of problem with the delivery system, that checks the credit rating of the purchaser. But as Experian have confirmed, my credit rating is good and the only problem, is that I’m not correctly on the Electoral Roll. And that’s not for dint of trying, but for some reason they seem incapable to get it right!

However, today I needed to buy a coach ticket from National Express for the Ipswich-QPR match on Boxing Day.

So I entered my details to buy the ticket and tried to pay by credit czrds. Both were rejected.

I phoned both credit card suppliers and there was no problem with either card.

As a last resort, I phoned National Express direct and bought the ticket traditionally from the Call Centre at the cost of a long phone call and a booking fee.

But it wasn’t without trouble.

Both my credit cards were rejected by the system used by the very patient Colin in the Call Centre, as was my debit card.

Their system knew about me from my previous four failed attempts to buy tickets on-line and I wondered if it was rejecting them because of my address, which was on some sort of blacklist.

I’ve often thought this, as my house was tenanted for several years before I bought it and the tenants did runners leaving piles of debts to several companies.

In the end, Colin and I felt this was all rather silly, so I thought about trying an alternative e-mail address, as this was probably the key used to access my address on their computer.

It worked and I got my ticket.

Intriguingly in both cases, I got my goods or tickets, when I broke the link between debit/credit card address and the address for the card.

In IKEA, this was by putting the AMEX card through a till and with National Express, it was by giving them an e-mail address for which they had no physical address details.

I am drawn to the inevitable conclusion, that software checks my address against County Court Judgements. And I think there could be a lot of them, due to the history of the property!

Surely, if I can’t purchase on-line, because of the debts of previous owners or their tenants, who lived here, before I bought the house, then that is illegal!

The only way to lose them, would be the same way to get rid of bindweed from your garden. Move!

Unless of course, someone reading this knows better?

 

December 21, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Finance, World | , , | 1 Comment

A Tale Of Three Web Sites

I’m going away for a few days on Thursday and my aim originally was to fly to Hamburg and then take trains along the coast to Amsterdam.

So I tried to book a flight on the German Wings web site.

I couldn’t, as when I tried to put my address into the booking form, I couldn’t find the UK, United Kingdom, Great Britain or England in their list of countries. Don’t the Germans know, they lost the Second World War?

I thought it might be finger trouble, so as I was watching one of my least favourite football teams getting a superb thumping at the time, I tried once for each goal.

In the end, I gave up and booked Eurostar to Any Belgian station, as you can’t book it to Hamburg yet.

It used to be easier, as you could book a train to Any Dutch Station, but for some reason the Dutch stopped that convenient ticket. It’s now much easier to book tickets to Switzerland than The Netherlands.

This morning, I needed to do my winter clothes shopping. It was only a number of standard items from Marks and Spencer. I usually, buy one example of say the trousers or jumpers I want and then use the code on the ticket to buy more if they fit.

So after logging in, doing the purchase with a new Amex card and arranging delivery to my local store, the process was completed without hassle in a few minutes.

Why can’t all travel sites, be as easy to use as shops like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and IKEA?

incidentally, I now use Amex a lot on the web, as they seem to have brought in a geographic security based on your Internet connection. The sites ask if they can use your Internet location and I suppose now, they can link that to my physical address.

It looks like a clever way to check on-line purposes. If my card and delivery address tie up to where my Internet connection is located, there must be a high probability, that I am making the purchases. I suppose, it could be someone, who has access to my house getting  hold of the card, but then I would be suspicious if products I hadn’t ordered ended up on my doorstep.

Banks and credit card companies should use tricks like this to secure on-line purchases, as anything password-based is likely to be derailed by the forgetful mind, unless it is written down. Which then breaks the security.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My New Front Door Lock

I’ve finally got a new front door, replacing the rotting one, that Jery had used.

A new door needed a new lock, so I went to the excellent Franchi on the Holloway Road and bought a Banham.

The lock did cost me £230, but then it does have a few advantages other than the strength and security it offers.

The biggest one is that to be secure, I now need only one normal-sized key.

When I go out, I just pull the handle to open the door and close it behind me to securely activate the lock.

It also means that I don’t have to find the key to let visitors in or open the door to such as postmen and couriers. When a visitor leaves they just open the door and shut it behind them.

So hopefully life will be easier and I won’t be constantly going up and down the stairs. It should be said that for most of the year, I have an upstairs window open and I just put my head out to check who’s there!

These Banham locks must be one of the classic British designs. And the company is still owned by the original family.

 

 

June 11, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Plastic Belt Buckles

I object to taking my belt off in airport security, as because of my gammy left hand, I need a mirror to get it back in again.

At Gatwick, I said could I not and said why, but the guy said you’ll have to take it off, if it beeps in the machine.

It didn’t beep and I kept it on.

In the 1970s I worked for ICI Plastics and there were plastics then, that were strong enough to make belt buckles, that wouldn’t be dangerous or set off medal detectors.

So why don’t we have them now?

If nothing it would speed up security!

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Barclays Loses Customer Data

Why is it the banks always seem to get things wrong? Or are they just accident prone?

This morning customer data from Barclays is reported to be on sale, here on the BBC.

I will not prejudge where the leak of information came from, but it will be interesting to see who did the dirty deed.

I suspect though we’ll see an increase in phishing scams tasrgeting Barclays customers.

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Computing, Finance, News | , | Leave a comment

Security Is Sometimes Entertaining

There was a bit of delay at security, as the staff kept getting beeps from this rather obese couple, who had to go through the detector several times.

In the end the staff said the beeps were caused by the passengers’ fat or something like that!

It did mean though, that I was some minutes longer getting to the gate.

It all added more meaning to that old phrase. “Time to spare, go by air!”

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Passwords

The BBC has an article on their web site today about passwords for Internet sites.

I go in to lots of sites and there are some I never use as their security doesn’t suit me.

If a site insists, I use a shift to enter a password, then that company doesn’t get my business. I think that Verified by Visa insists on this, so I never use my Visa card on-line. So if I see an on-line transaction, when I check my Visa account, I know it’s fraud.

Incidentally, I think it’s a good idea to only use one card for on-line transactions and keep that secure in a close place by your computer.

My passwords are generally based on phone numbers, that I remember from my childhood, which were like the classic Whitehall 1212, which was Scotland Yard. You can check your password here. They say, that it would take a PC a thousand years to crack one of my passwords. But even my immediate family wouldn’t probably have known the number.

And all it was was an old London phone number.

Even the last phone number I had in Suffolk, which was Thurlow 789, would take a computer 10 days. The previous phone number at Debach, which was on a small exchange called Charsfield and was just three digits, would take a thousand years. Unless of course you had my details from the 1970s.

Incidentally, if I translate my current phone number, back to the exchange name that would take 27 years.  If you want to translate your London number, there’s a list here.

So it would appear you can be both lazy and secure!

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Computing, News | , | Leave a comment

American Express Password Problem

I should say first that it wasn’t AMEX, who had the problem, but me, as I’d forgotten, what my login to their site was. I never write anything down or store it on the computer, so I had a problem, as the Mark One brain had forgotten it.

But their site is very professional in the way it dealt with someone like me.

Firstly, it asked me to enter my card details, and then it sent me a temporary password to login to the site.

This password was a six character alpha-numeric code, with the alpha characters in upper case.

On typing this in to the site with my customer ID, I was able to get in and change my password.

AMEX passwords are simple and must be a mixture of alpha and numeric characters, where case is irrelevant.

All very simple and as it’s AMEX, I suspect it’s a lot more secure than it looks in the first instance.

If all websites had such good security and simple passwords, on-line systems would be much more secure.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , | Leave a comment

I Locked Myself Out For The First Time Since 1969

This morning the recyclers turned up, and in the rush to dispose of my green sacks, I managed to lock myself out, as the door slammed behind me.

Luckily, I had my coat on, so I wasn’t too cold and I also had my wallet in the pocket.  But my phone was in the house, so I couldn’t call my son, who has spare keys.

Eventually, I borrowed a phone, but he was in a meeting, so I had to go to Walthamstow to get them from our builder.

The journey didn’t start well, as roadworks round the corner, meant I couldn’t find a 56 bus to get to Leyton for a bus to where my son lives and the builder is working. So I went the other way to get the Victoria line from Highbury and Islington.

it was bitterly cold and I was without my hat and gloves and then the train was delayed.

But eventually, I got the keys  and was able to get back into the house.

The last time, I locked myself out was in 1969 and a very pregnant C and myself called the Police to get us in. They did with a well-aimed boot. I’ve since used the technique a couple of times.

They also said never call the Fire Brigade in this sort of emergency, as they love to use their axes.

April 4, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment